Throughout the years of sports fandom I have lamented bad calls that went against teams I rooted for, such as the kind of gift calls the 80s Celtics used to get (particularly in 1988 vs. Detroit), or the ones the Lakers got against the Kings, or the Spurs against the Nets, or the one the Devils recently got against the Kings in Game 6 (and many, many other conspiracy theory-inspiring calls and/or rule changes against the Devils).
But as a Yankee fan, I refuse to be hypocritical. They are one of those teams mentioned above who were beneficiaries of bad calls against their opponents. Of course, there was Jeffrey Maier 1996. Enough said. A few years later, there was one where second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was given the benefit of the doubt on an exchange on a double play attempt where, in reality, he flat out dropped the throw and the runner at second should’ve been safe.
Today was no exception. In their game in Washington against the Nationals, a game they eventually won in 14 innings, they were charmed by a missed call at home plate where the Nationals player – though the throw beat the runner and it was a close play – was safe but called out by the home plate umpire.
As a sports fan, you always remember the calls that didn’t go your way in big games while forgetting the breaks you got along the way. However, I can’t for the life of me think of any bad calls that hurt the Yankees over their run of outstanding play (and exorbitant payrolls) beginning in 1995. That tells you something.
I do recall a game during the 1999 American League Championship Series vs. Boston in which the Yanks had a call go their way that shouldn’t have. The next day I argued viehemently that there were actually six calls in that game alone where replay showed the umpire got a call wrong – and, three of those six went against the Red Sox and the other three went against the Yankees. (Though I don’t recall any of the particular plays in question.)
My point that day was that the calls even out over the course of a series. However, I know second guess that point because the Yanks have just seemed to get more than their share of breaks over the years – breaks they don’t deserve given they are already handed the unfair advantage of not having to adhere to a salary cap and being able to spend wildly toward their success.
At least I’m willing to admit that they get a lot of breaks. Celtic fans, or Chicago Bulls fans during the Jordan era, would probably not admit as much. Heck, I always chortle indignantly when Celtics announcer Tommy Heinsohn complains about every call as if the Celtics have, throughout their history, been a team the referees didn’t favor. It’s comical how blind the guy is. I’m not blind like these blatant homers, I’m proud to say.
I concede the umps got it wrong today and the Nationals lost a game because of it, as many other teams have done over the last couple decades.
I’ll add the caveat though that I don’t think the Yankees get the calls because they’re the Yankees. I just think they’ve been lucky. There isn’t a “star syndrome” of officiating in baseball like there has been in basketball since the Magic, Bird and especially Jordan NBA days – at least not as glaringly so. I don’t think Derek Jeter, for example, gets called safe on a bang-bang play because he’s Derek Jeter in the same fashion that MJ got foul calls because he was MJ. The only baseball exception is that a great pitcher may get a borderline strike and a Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn might get a ball called on a borderline pitch out of the umpire’s respect. Again, it’s not as blatant.
So – even though I do for the most part subscribe to every single “Bettman hates the Devils and changes rules to hurt them” conspiracy theories as a Devil fan, I am willing to admit that my other favorite East Coast team, the Yankees, seem to get the benefit of the calls. So I guess, in a sense, it does even out.